AFRICA – African nations have often been an afterthought for the gaming industry. The region is usually the last place for new hardware to launch, with the Asian, North American and European markets usually getting a headstart of weeks or even months.
Things haven’t been as extreme in the recent launch of the Sony PlayStation 5, which went on sale in South Africa on the 19th November, just seven days after it hit shelves in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
The quantity of region-specific titles or games with characters of African heritage has also been pretty poor. This has been slowly changing in more recent years, driven in part by homegrown game developers and publishers creating their own content to serve the African market.
Evidence of this can be seen right here in Uganda. Just four video games have been set in the country: Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011, Delta Force 2, Global Operations, and Soldier of Fortune. However, this should change over time, thanks to organisations like The Games Hub and Africa Game Developers that are beginning to help create a community around video game design and help more people to learn the skills.
This hasn’t stopped esports from getting a foothold on the continent, with competitions being held in several African nations in recent years, and an increasing number of players getting involved in tournaments and leagues.
South Africa Leading the Way
South Africa is leading the way in terms of esports. According to Esports Earnings, there are more than 500 players in the country who have received prize money from partaking in competitions, though only 115 of them have made more than $1,000 in lifetime earnings. This is in addition to around 40,000 South Africans than follow esports competitions as spectators.
The highest earner, Aran Groesbeek, who goes by the name “Sonic”, has managed to rake in more than $70,000 from playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. However, this doesn’t allow him to even get close to the global 100 highest earners.
The esports scene in the country has been helped by an already established gaming culture. Video games have been popular in the country for several decades, driven by the nation’s wealthy population and a number of homegrown retailers like Game 4U and Magarom Interactive that have helped get games into the hands of consumers.
The country has also been ahead of the rest of the continent in terms of internet infrastructure. This has allowed online casinos to take hold in South Africa, with both traditional games like blackjack and newer video slot games proving popular in the country. This has helped to make people more familiar with playing games online too, something that is a new concept in other nations.
Organisations such as the African Cyber Gaming League help to promote esports in the country by hosting and broadcasting a number of competitions across the internet. The country’s universities are also now getting in on the action, with 17 institutions taking part in varsity-style events.
Elsewhere on the continent, the picture varies greatly. Algeria has around 50 players who’ve received some amount of prize money from esports competitions, though only one has managed to break through the $10,000 mark.
In Morocco, the situation is similar. There are around 50 players who have received some form of prize money from an esports tournament, with three managing more than $20,000. The country has around one million people who regularly play video games and a further four million who play occasionally. This has led to brands like Inwi and Orange, two of Algeria’s biggest communication companies organising and sponsoring esports competitions in the country.
However, other countries have just a handful of players who have enjoyed even modest success. Senegal’s Ibrahima Kébé is the West African country’s only esports player who has won anything in a tournament. Both Zambia and Kenya have two players, while Ghana has five.
As of yet, Esports Earnings has yet to record any players from Uganda being successful in an international competition. This is corroborated by eSports Flag, another site that tracks esports in each country around the world.
Sowing the Seeds
Things are likely to change in the coming years. As more of the continent gets access to faster internet and enjoys economic growth, video games and esports will begin to become ingrained in popular culture.
Countries in Europe, North America and Asia have been much more exposed to video games, so the foundations were already laid for esports to thrive. In South Africa, where the gaming scene is more similar to these other continents, we can see that there is a strong demand for esports.